Sound and Story: My Senior Thesis Recital

I recently performed my senior thesis recital! Check out the recital website, where you can browse the digital program guide (aka program notes) and watch the video recording.

Recital flyer with light purple background, a keyboard image, and assorted rainbow-colored decorations.
Image transcription:
Sound and Story
senior thesis recital
Margin Tianya Zheng, piano and harpsichord.
19 April 2023
Jaharis Recital Hall
Haverford College
Gabriela Lena Frank, Sonata Andina no. 1 (movt. 1-3)
Anatoly Lyadov, Prelude-Pastorale & Prelude on a Russian Theme
Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Suite in D minor from Pièces de clavecin (selections)
Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonata in A-flat major (op. 110)
Margin Tianya Zheng, fluxing, quivering, transforming (world premiere)

Here are some of my musical creations:

fluxing, quivering, transforming

Part music composition, part performance art, this 12-minute “more-than-piano” work narrates my intertwined journeys of gender identity and mental illness/Madness through traditional and extended piano technique (including brushing the piano strings with Chinese calligraphy brushes), vocalization, text, and improvisation upon/as a tarot card reading. Composed as part of my undergraduate senior thesis project and premiered in my senior thesis recital.

rainbow mirror upon the cooling box

A collection of poetry, composed from a small number of Magnetic Poetry magnets discovered in an old box belonging to the student residence Quaker House at Haverford College, set to sounds created in Ableton Live. An exploration of queerness, madness, and magic.

when pneum is named

Composed for Wildflower Composers 2020, for bassoon and fixed media. The score is a video that pans through a graphic I created that provides instructions and stimuli for the bassoonist to respond to. The bassoonist listens to the fixed media when performing and allows it to further guide their creativity. Here is a Haverford College article about my and another Haverford student’s experiences at Wildflower (then called Young Women Composers Camp).

When I see you cry

An art song for soprano and piano; text is my own. This song was featured on the podcast of World Beyond War in the episode ”Digging Deeper with Nicholson Baker, and a Song by Margin Zheng.”

Story in Si

A solo piano work using extended techniques. This was my final project for a course I took in my first semester of college on literary translation. Instead of translating to another textual language, I created a musical transformation of the Mandarin Chinese poem “Story of Shi Eating the Lions,” which when read aloud is a single phoneme (“shi”) repeated in different tones. There are many text-music correspondences, the most prominent of which is the translation of phoneme repetition into the usage of only the pitch-class G# (“si” in fixed-do solfege, which looks and sounds similar to “shi”)).

Some of my other works can be found on my SoundCloud and Youtube channel.

Crisis, Care, Creation

On April 20th, 2020, I performed a virtual concert on Zoom centering on the climate crisis. The concert was based on Lola Perrin’s Significantus and involved audience participation in breakout discussion groups and collective improvisation. It was sponsored by the E. Clyde Lutton 1966 Memorial Fund and the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities at Haverford College. Read the concert description here and a reflective essay I wrote afterwards here. Below is the recording of the event: